Death of PC Greatly Exaggerated

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On the cover of Barron’s magazine this week, there is a declaration that the PC is dead. Barron’s argues that growth for Apple and Google tablets and smartphones is forcing Microsoft and Intel to scramble to remain relevant.

Just how prescient is this? Mobile users grew so fast that there are now more mobile users than computer users. Barron’s could be jumping the shark on this negative call on WinTel, especially on the eve of the launch of Windows 8, Windows Surface, and Windows Phone 8.

Cloud Computing
The move towards cloud computing will continue, making devices of any kind “dumb terminals” that just access data. This makes Microsoft behind: its Azure cloud platform still represents a small part of Microsoft’s business. Intel benefits from cloud computing growth: its chips are used to power servers. Intel continues to bring innovation for its Atom-line of processors, focusing on lower energy usage without compromising on processing power.

Online Search
On the downside, Microsoft is behind Google on search and on online advertising. Microsoft was able to generate growth in online advertising and services, but it is far slower than that of Google. Still, Microsoft aggressively touted that Bing helped users find better search results than Google. The Bing It On Challenge brought in over 10 million users.

Microsoft Office
Office remains the most-used productivity software in the world. Some users consider themselves as power-users. When Office 2013 is released in 6 months, the software will be a must-have for enterprise customers. By that time, Windows 8 tablets might be more mature, and more usable for Office productivity work.

Surface for Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro
Windows Surface will be by far the most important event for Microsoft and to a lesser extent, Intel. Details on Surface RT were leaked last week: the device will be powered by an ARM processor and will cost $499 without a cover keyboard. RT is designed for mobility, and will have a longer battery life. The tablet will have Office pre-installed, along with SkyDrive, built-in Mail, messaging, and photo viewing.

Enterprises will likely prefer Surface for Windows 8 Pro, which runs on an Intel processor. It will be slightly heavier (1.99 pounds compared to 1.5 pounds) and will be slightly thicker (0.49 inches compared to 0.36 inches on the RT).

PC makers will not be far behind introducing tablets and convertible tablets to consumers. Intel said there are over 100 Ultrabook designs running Windows 8. 40 of them will be touch-based. There will also be tablet designs that will have detachable keyboards.

Long Live PC
Barron’s call that computer makers will fade is, for the time being, greatly exaggerated. Dell and HP are facing a drop in sales, but some of that is due to the company’s failure to innovate its designs. In the last quarter, Asus and Lenovo managed to grow market share.

Why was that?

Asus is already planning to have a Windows 8-based tablet ready when the new operating system is released. When the PC sector tried to reinvigorate the market by touting Ultrabooks, the initiative failed because prices were too high, and the benefits over ordinary laptops were minimal. This time around, Windows 8 will give users a fresher way to interact with the operating system. Data will span across several access points, too. Microsoft is pushing suppliers to innovate in the design of Windows 8-based devices. Mainstream pricing for Ultrabooks are now in the US $699 range. Renewed interest in PC’s will prove to be possible, but it needs an innovative company to lead it. That company is Microsoft.

Further Perspective: Bill Gates on Windows 8 and Surface.

Chris Lau (88 Posts)

  • Doug Wolfgram

    Everything is going to the browser. MS just fell too far behind.

  • Steve Cassady

    I don’t think it will go away.  A lot of unique situations will still drive PC sales.  Platform market share will drop, yes.

  • Savio Sebastian

    PC is definitely on it’s way out.
    1. Because handhelds are cheap and for most people – that’s all the computing power they need – if anything – I think people would slowly start to adopt smaller laptops than big laptops – so big ass laptops are also on it’s way out… I think Mac Book Air will be the standard for the future – eventually MacBook Pro will be phased out – or come in the same form factor as the Mac book Air

    2. PCs are Windows Based – they haven’t released a great OS in 10 Years! XP was their best and they haven’t gotten any better.

    On the other hand, I think the iMac will sell more – coz folks who really need that size and performance will opt for an iMac over a PC.

  • Mark Reynolds

    I certainly don’t agree with those who proclaim that we are in a Post-PC era. The pronouncements of convergence over the last several years is finally coming to fruition.  Different form-factor devices are required for different purposes, but the circle of connectivity is closing.  Tablets and smartphones are a big part of closing that convergence circle – they do not end PC’s, they augment them.  People want to be able to continue to have computing access on the move, in conferences, in the board room, on the lounge.  Smartphones & Tablets provide this.  They do not, however, replace PC’s.  They augment them.  Microsoft-based servers are BIG in Enterprise and in hosting.  Microsoft Office usage is big.  Many may have turned to Apple and Android while Microsoft has had little to offer in the tablet and smartphone sector, but many will also welcome Microsoft’s entry into the mobile market of smartphones & tablets, and appreciate that they can now use the same software that they are used on whatever platform is most useful for the occasion they find themselves in.

  • Truthtrance

    I’ve already transitioned to Linux operating system on my desktop so I guess I am already optimally placed whichever way the hardware people deliver greater processing power and greater bandwidth.

  • Tulleuchen

    Cloud computing may be in the rise. But the infrastructure to support everything being in the cloud just isn’t there. Think of the days of dial-up modems. Do we want to go back to that, waiting for everything to download to our terminals? Nope the PC, or the Mac, or the whatever workstation it may be is still here to stay. There are still many uses that the cloud simply can’t accomplish. Yes mobile is on a huge increase. But having stuff in house is still a great benefit. It’s simply too risky to put all our eggs into the cloud.

  • Chris Lau

    Here’s a 3 minute tutorial on Windows 8. That start button that Windows is criticized for missing…is on the bottom left.

  • Bruce Stewart

    It’ll be interesting to watch this unfold over time. For the average office situation, in organizations that have passed their first growth hurdle (say 150+ people), the PC will probably persist. The independents and small start ups are a more interesting question: I know in my own case (since that’s where I fit) I keep putting off buying a new laptop as I make more and more use of my iPad in the field instead. (I’m having zero issues using Numbers, Pages and Keynote on the iPad to take in and ship out Excel, Word and PowerPoint documents to others, so I’m not missing not having MS Office on it.) 

    Cloud-based services coupled to phones and tablets in a WiFi equipped work space may do it for a lot of people “lighter on their feet”, especially if they invest in a keyboard (I was at a two day Cognitive Edge session last week and two of the eight people in the room used keyboards — one a “cover” model much like the Surface offers, the other a standard Apple Bluetooth keyboard — with their iPads all through the sessions).The server side is more interesting, because we’re on the cusp of seeing servers be replaced by cloud providers for more and more purposes. Now the purveyor of a service in the cloud may themselves be using MSFT servers rather than Linux or purpose-built, but that won’t matter to anyone who uses the service.

  • DonSheppard

    I don’t see the desktop PC going away completely anytime soon.  I just cannot imagine spending 5 or 6 hours a day staring at my iPad – its hard enough to look at a large screen much less a small one.

    Given that, I can certainly see an evaolution in which there’s a symbiotic relationship among devices.  People talk about a “personal cloud” – why shouldn’t a desktop or a laptop look and act like a big tablet.  Why can’t we have all the iTunes applications running on a desktop too?

    Is there a market for emulating an iPad on a windows PC? 

  • Thomas

    As a software developer who have worked both on desktop and mobile apps, I just cannot believe the PC is on the way out. Yes, tablets and smartphones are convenient because they can be carried around and they are also cheap, but are they really comfortable to work with throughout the day especially if your work involves days sitting at a desk anyway? Where I work we needed to see how our customers (software users) were actually using our mobile apps vs their desktop counterparts. For tracking usage on mobile apps we used Flurry ( and for the desktop version we used Trackerbird ( Although both apps were able to do essentially the same things, we could notice that the desktop app was being used for MUCH longer than the mobile app on average. We also figured out that most users that used the desktop version kept using it frequently, while user retention on the mobile app was quite poor. Most users seemed to want to try it out because smartphones are hip these days and carrying your work around sounds attractive, but when it comes to doing the job on a phone or tablet, they start to lose interest.